NFL awards may be a bit premature with the Offseason still in full swing. The major offseason events of free agency and the draft are in the books, and while teams have not fully reassembled in their facilities, players are all beginning to put in work in preparation for training camp.
So, with that said, let’s try and predict who will take home the awards for their individual performances in the coming season.
The future (or current) face of the NFL is the easy pick for anyone. The coming 2021/22 season will only be the fifth year Mahomes has been in the NFL. Despite this, the Kansas City superstar already has an MVP award, one Super Bowl ring, two Super Bowl appearances, and three AFC Championship games under his belt. This has all been done in the three years he has been the Chiefs starter – so as you can see Mahomes is great, amazing, superb, however, you want to put it.
Mahomes is coming off a season where he finished second in MVP voting. While his 38-6 Touchdown-to-Interception stat line wasn’t quite as good as his historical 50-12 ratio in 2018, what jumps off the board when looking at last season is that Mahomes had a career year in every efficiency-based category.
He set personal highs in passes attempted and completed, completion percentage, passer rating and also matched his lowest interception percentage. While he couldn’t quite out-duel Aaron Rodgers for the prestigious MVP award, his 2020 season would have won him the trophy nearly any other year.
What makes Mahomes an even more favourable candidate is the offensive line additions the Chiefs made in the offseason. Anyone who watched the Super Bowl in February would have seen Mahomes metaphorically, running for his life.
So, the massive trade for Pro Bowl Tackle Orlando Brown would have come as huge sigh of relief for Chiefs fans. Kansas City didn’t stop there though, they made Joe Thuney the second highest paid Guard, drafted Centre Creed Humphrey in the second round, brought Kyle Long out of retirement, and also have Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff returning.
If you need any more convincing that Mahomes should be the favourite here’s three more names you may have heard of – Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and future Hall of Fame coach, Andy Reid.
MVP Favourite? No brainer.
The breakout year for Josh Allen in 2020 was an unexpected surprise. While the additions of Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley may have made it more likely, it was hard to find anything positive about Allen’s play in his first two years in the NFL.
With that said, Allen was ridiculously good last year. The Bills franchise leader accounted for 45 total touchdowns and over 4,500 passing yards in 2020, leading Buffalo to a 13-3 record.
Typically, it’s hard to follow a season like that of Allen’s with an even better one and regression is very normal. However, Buffalo replaced John Brown with Emmanuel Sanders who, despite being in the latter stages of his career, is a more talented second option.
To go along with Sanders, Stefon Diggs will for sure be back looking to put up even greater numbers and Cole Beasley will be back from the broken leg he played on in last year’s Playoffs – tough doesn’t even get close to describing Beasley.
Perhaps the most important offseason move of all for the Bills was keeping offensive guru, Brian Daboll, in the building. Daboll was the catalyst for Allen’s success in 2020, so keeping him around can only bring good things.
Watch out for Allen next season and maybe even a Super Bowl run for the team from Eastern New York.
Here’s a dark horse candidate that fans of America’s team will love, but the rest of the League will hate.
Prescott was filling the stat columns before the gruesome, season-ending lower leg injury he suffered against the Giants in Week 5. To put Dak’s first four and a half games into perspective, the Cowboys icon still led the league in passing yards by the end of Week 6 – a whole game and a half after his season ended.
Now there is some deserved criticism when it comes to Prescott and America’s Dallas Cowboys. Despite being head and shoulders above everyone in passing yards, Prescott had only led the team to a 1-3 record and was down to the Giants at the time of his injury. His Touchdown-to-Interception ratio was also only 9 to 4 – nice, not great. To make things worse, Dallas had a bottom-10 defense in terms of yards allowed per game and were leaking points all season.
But this is why Prescott is a dark horse MVP candidate. The Cowboys offense is electric and filled with talent. They have a top-3 wide receivers’ room with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and second-year stud, CeeDee Lamb.
The offensive line play has deteriorated over previous years, but the unit still has perennial All-Pro Guard, Zach Martin and top-10 Tackle, when healthy, Tyron Smith. If Dallas can get slightly more consistent play from their line, the offense will easily rank top-5 in the League.
The improved offensive line play will create greater balance and allow Ezekiel Elliott to possibly return to his All-Pro rushing form. This will only help Dak as there will be less pressure on the passing game while also opening the air attack up for big plays and big stat lines.
It’s not a popular pick among fans of the other 31 teams, but Prescott is America’s teams Quarterback for a reason – he’s popular and talented. A perfect recipe for an MVP campaign.
Others to Consider:
Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Aaron Donald, Kyler Murray
Offensive Player of the Year
The Packers star receiver was close to unstoppable last year. Adams put up over 1,300 yards and scored 18 touchdowns – a figure that has only been topped by Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Randy Moss. Those numbers were in just 14 games by the way.
This selection completely depends on whether or not Aaron Rodgers is the Packers Quarterback in 2021. Traction regarding a Rodgers trade has tailed off recently and it is far more likely he remains in Green Bay instead of playing elsewhere.
If Rodgers remains in Green Bay, Adams will be looking to top his incredible 2020 season. It’s worth noting that if it wasn’t for a certain Derrick Henry, Adams would likely have won the award.
Out for revenge in 2021, Davante Adams is my front runner.
Bills Mafia would have been screaming for Diggs to win the award last year. Diggs led the league in receptions and receiving yards. While Adams probably was ahead of Diggs in the rankings, the Buffalo receiver was nonetheless incredible.
With the uncertainty surrounding Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and the expected continued development of Josh Allen, Diggs has a great chance to be just as productive and jump up ahead of Adams.
It was definitely hard to rank Cook over reigning Offensive Player of the Year, Derrick Henry.
I’m not sure how possible it is for Henry to keep up his dominance though. He will probably make me eat my words, but to reproduce anywhere near to the 2,000 yard rushing season he just had is very unlikely.
Cook on the other hand has a better chance to improve upon his 2020 stats. That being said, the Vikings back still recorded 1,500 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns last year which are elite numbers.
The offensive line is slowly improving year on year. What’s even better for Cook is that defensive attention is bound to be diverted towards second-year sensation, Justin Jefferson and veteran Adam Thielen.
Cook has been an incredible replacement for future Hall of Famer, Adrian Peterson. He deserves the hardware to show how good he has been when healthy.
Others to consider:
Derrick Henry, Deandre Hopkins, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill
Defensive Player of the Year
No need to try and be clever here. 3-time DPOY winner. 6-time first team All-Pro. Defensive Rookie of the Year. Possibly the greatest defensive player to ever play Football. All in 7 seasons.
A strong consideration for last year’s award, Garrett has established himself as a top-5 defender in the League – the Browns pass rusher has double digit sacks in his last 3 seasons, despite only entering the NFL in 2017.
Garrett should be at least a top-5 candidate for the award especially given the emergence of the Cleveland Browns. The Browns were a questionable penalty away from a trip to the AFC Championship last year. So, how have they added to their aspirations to bring home a Lombardi Trophy?
They’ve only gone and invested their whole offseason in improving the defense. Across from Garrett, Cleveland has brought in former number one pick, Jadeveon Clowney. The secondary will be massively improved as well.
The under the radar signings of Safety, John Johnson, and Cornerback, Troy Hill, to go along with fourth year Corner, Denzel Ward, has the potential to make Cleveland’s secondary one of the best in the NFL.
The Browns continued with the defensive additions in the draft, snagging Greg Newsome in the first round and absolutely stealing Jeremiah Owusu-Koromoah in the second. Add to the equation the returns from injury of the young, talented Greedy Williams and Grant Delpit, and it’s hard to not see Cleveland having a top-10 defense this season.
Myles Garrett is still undoubtedly the leader of this defense and overall, their best player. Cleveland will also almost certainly be a Playoff team which makes the likelihood of individual awards more likely.
A Playoff team, with a potential top-10 or even top-5 defense? Put Garrett at the head of the DPOY running.
A slightly surprising candidate. There has been a decline in the value of the Linebacker position in recent years and also in Linebackers who have won the award. In the last decade, Luke Kuechly was the only off-ball Linebacker to win the award, while there were four instances from 2000-2011.
While the overall value of the off-ball Linebacker has decreased, the calibre of the best at the position has certainly not. Fred Warner is perhaps the best at the position in the League – Bobby Wagner, Darious Leonard and Lavonte David can all also be considered.
Warner is the pick though. A First Team All-Pro selection in 2020, the 49ers Captain has evolved into an elite player. While the return of Nick Bosa could hinder Warner’s status as San Francisco’s best defender, don’t let that put you off.
The BYU product is a tackling machine and is very impressive in coverage. With 15 passes defended in the last two years, Warner excels in pass coverage despite only recording 3 career interceptions.
If Warner continues to trend in the direction he’s currently going, a DPOY nod could come soon, especially if San Francisco makes a playoff push next season.
Others to Consider:
Jalen Ramsey, TJ Watt, Tre’Davious White, Minkah Fitzpatrick
Offensive Rookie of the Year
The 2021 number one overall pick is deservedly the favourite. It’s not often you have a player compared to the likes of Andrew Luck and John Elway, so when they do come around it’s hard to ignore them for these sort of awards.
Lawrence goes to a nice situation in Jacksonville. The Florida team is coming off of a 1-15 season and is in the midst of a complete overhaul. Expectations will continue to be low so should relieve some of the pressure on Lawrence.
That said, the Jaguars have underrated pieces to work with on offense – DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault will continue to develop along with Running Back, James Robinson. Throw in veteran receiver (one of my favourite offseason signings), Marvin Jones Jr, along with first round pick, Travis Etienne, and Jacksonville sneakily has a very talented set of skill position players.
Quarterbacks will always have some bias when it comes to the NFL awards. That only helps Lawrence. Even with that in mind, Lawrence will have an excellent chance to put up big numbers.
The slide to pick 11 in the draft may have immensely benefited Fields. Even though Chicago traded up knowing coach, Matt Nagy, and GM, Ryan Pace, are on the hot seat, you don’t have to look back too far to see a Chicago team going 12-4 and winning the NFC North.
That was just back in 2018 and may I remind you it was Mitchell Trubisky leading that team. Yes, they had a great defense, but so will Fields this coming season, and Fields is far more talented than Trubisky.
What this shows is that Matt Nagy can win football games. I mean he managed to get Trubisky to throw at a respectable 24-12 ratio in 2018, which when looking back at it, was a miracle.
Fields inherits the same Nagy offense, that includes Pro Bowl receiver, Allen Robinson and the welcome surprise from last year, Darnell Mooney. If you haven’t heard of Mooney, just search up the Bears-Rams game from last year, when Mooney burnt All-Pro Jalen Ramsey on a route, and you’ll see what an impressive weapon he is.
Fields is talented and has a lot of quality surrounding him. Chicago is a nice spot for him to excel and gives him a good chance to win OROY.
This was a tossup between Pitts and Bengals receiver, Ja’Marr Chase. Both are incredibly talented, but Pitts has the edge because of the fewer mouths to feed in Atlanta. Don’t let that take credit away from Pitts though, who instantly is seen as a top-5 player at his position.
Atlanta has had a difficult offseason. They were unable to sign any big-ticket free agents because of their dreadful cap situation. What makes it even tougher for the Falcons is that they are likely moving on from all-time great receiver, Julio Jones.
Their offense is far from lacking talent though. Pitts is expected to form Atlanta’s new dynamic duo receiving core, alongside Calvin Ridley. It doesn’t hurt having former MVP, Matt Ryan, throwing the ball either. Add new head coach, Arthur Smith, and Atlanta expects to have a high-powered offense this season.
This is why Pitts should be strongly considered for the award. While he is a centre piece of the offense, a lot of the attention will be diverted towards Ridley. The Florida product Pitts is also a nightmare to match up with. Deciding whether to defend him with a defensive back or linebacker will cause headaches for opposing teams.
Pitts should be relishing this situation. If he plays remotely similar to his final year at Florida it will be hard to overlook Pitts as OROY.
Others to consider:
Ja’Marr Chase, Trey Lance, Najee Harris
Defensive Rookie of the Year
What a steal Farley could turn out to be. Before his back surgery in the offseason, Farley was widely considered the number one Cornerback in the Draft. His slide on Draft night may have cost him some money, but Tennessee is an excellent spot to go to.
Farley, if healthy, will start week one for the Titans. Their Cornerback room includes veteran Janoris Jenkins and second year, Kristian Fulton, but neither are as talented as the ex-Virginia Tech stud.
The Titans face some difficult opponents who offer some top tier receivers – Deandre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs all come to Nashville this season. But outside of them and maybe DK Metcalf, Tennessee faces no other teams with a top-10 receiver.
When looking at that, Farley has an excellent chance to instantly be a lockdown Corner. He will for sure have his rookie struggles, but the talent he has and the limited number of blue-chip receivers he will face will give Farley the best chances to be the first Corner since Marshon Lattimore to win the award.
The first drafted Corner in the 2021 Draft is perhaps the most physical defensive back to enter the League since Jacksonville drafted Jalen Ramsey in 2016.
Horn was exceptional at South Carolina this past season. Despite a few hiccups against fellow first rounder, Devonta Smith, in 2019, Horn allowed just 8 catches in coverage in his final year as a Gamecock.
He now goes to a rapidly improving Panthers defense under the command of second-year head coach, Matt Rhule. As the first defender took in the draft, expectations will be high for Horn. If anyone has the competitive mindset to fulfil those expectations, look no further than the eighth overall pick.
As mentioned, the value of the Linebacker position has decreased. That is until a player of Parsons’ quality comes around.
The new Cowboy sat out in 2020, but his film at Penn State, followed by his offseason testing, reminded everyone how good he is.
The Cowboys defense was horrific last season. The addition of Dan Quinn as Defensive Coordinator and then the selection of Parsons will most probably see an improvement in their defensive production.
Parsons plays with his heart on his sleeve and is the type of character Cowboys fans have become accustomed to over the years. Expect Parsons to be used in a similar role to that of Devin White in Tampa Bay – sideline to sideline, regular blitzer, and reduced amount of pass coverage exposure.
Others to consider:
Jaelan Phillips, Asante Samuel Jr, Kwity Paye
Comeback Player of the Year
The 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year was sidelined for most of last season after tearing his ACL against the Jets in Week 2.
But no one has forgotten what a force the younger Bosa brother was in 2019. Bosa registered 10 sacks in his rookie season and was the leader of the 49ers defense that eventually lost in the Super Bowl.
While the 49ers defense was still incredibly effective against the pass last season, they missed Bosa’s presence which was evident in their decline in run defense and production from other players, notably Arik Armstead and rookie Javon Kinlaw.
Bosa has posted some post-injury workout videos and he looks nearly back to his electric self. A Playoff run for the 49ers will heavily depend on the availability of their premier pass rusher.
Possibly the best all-round back in the NFL is hopefully returning fully healthy this coming season.
A reminder of his production from the 2019 season – 1,387 and 15 rushing yards and touchdowns. Now those are incredible numbers by themselves. Throw in McCaffrey’s receiving stats and you can see why he was first team All-Pro. McCaffrey recorded 1,005 yards through the air and set an NFL record for a running back with 116 receptions.
The Panthers offense was scary last year with the addition of Robby Anderson to DJ Moore and the now-departed Curtis Samuel. The 2021/22 Panthers offense could be terrifying with a healthy McCaffrey back in the fold and if he gets anywhere near back to his 2019 form, he’s a lock for Comeback Player of the Year.
Another superstar running back returning from injury. Like Bosa, Barkley tore his ACL in Week 2 last season.
The 2018 number two overall pick had topped 1,000 yards rushing in each of his first two seasons. While his rushing numbers did drop in his second year, he made up for it in is ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Barkley caught 91 balls for 721 yards in 2019. Even though he almost certainly won’t have as many targets next season given the monster contract Kenny Golladay received this offseason, Barkley should be looking to top 1,000 rushing yards again.
The Giants missed Barkley a lot last year – he is the centre piece of their offense. He will definitely be a front runner for the award but has a lot of competition to beat out.
Others to consider:
Chandler Jones, Dak Prescott, Odell Beckham Jr, Courtland Sutton, George Kittle
Coach of the Year
The 2021 Draft cannot be talked about without bringing up Shanahan’s 49ers. After making a big splash to acquire the number three overall pick which then turned into Trey Lance, San Francisco is again a major contender to come out of the NFC.
While the 49ers did draft Lance, their starting quarterback for the season will likely be Jimmy Garoppolo. The Bay Area team has only managed to get one full season out of Garoppolo despite him being with the team for three and a half years. In that season though, the 49ers went 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl where they ended up blowing a ten-point fourth-quarter lead.
With Garoppolo injured most of last season, San Francisco limped to a 6-10 record. Trey Lance is now in the fold and the expectation with either Quarterback under centre is that the team wins at least ten games.
Even if it is Trey Lance as the starter instead of Garoppolo, everyone realises that Shanahan is perhaps the best offensive playcaller in the game. A division title will make it hard to overlook Shanahan for the award.
The Indianapolis Colts have been a Quarterback away from reaching their potential ever since the abrupt retirement of Andrew Luck.
They believe they have got their guy now after acquiring Carson Wentz from the Eagles.
Reich is a great candidate for the award considering his past relationship with Wentz in Philadelphia. The then Eagles offensive Coordinator had Wentz on path to become the league MVP before a late season-ending injury ended Wentz’s campaign. Even with Wentz out, Philadelphia went on to win the Super Bowl.
The two are now reunited in Indianapolis and the hope is that Reich can help regain the magic Wentz displayed in the 2017 season.
If Reich can, he’ll possibly be a shoo-in for the award.
Perhaps in with an outside chance for the award is the first-year head coach who switched allegiances in Los Angeles this offseason. Staley led the Rams to the number one defense in the NFL last season and now inherits a team that is coming off an encouraging year thanks to reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert.
Staley goes from working with the likes of Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey to Joey Bosa and Derwin James. While it may not be quite as good a combo, it’s not far off.
The Chargers have a reputation of blowing games they should have won. Whether it’s special team errors or coaching mistakes, the lesser supported LA team certainly hasn’t been short-changed when it comes to heartbreak and frustration.
If Staley can lead this team to the Playoffs, an achievement they weren’t far off last year, he could be in with a chance of becoming the second straight first-year coach to win the award.
Others to consider:
Brian Flores, Joe Judge, Sean Payton
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